One in five victims of stalking are men targeted by women

In Britain 900,000 people are harassed or receive unwanted attention each year. Most are women, but men now suffer more than ever
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Growing numbers of men have become targets of stalkers as new figures reveal that 900,000 British people are being harassed or receiving unwanted attention each year.

Growing numbers of men have become targets of stalkers as new figures reveal that 900,000 British people are being harassed or receiving unwanted attention each year.

According to the first ever global study into the extent of the crime, men are now the targets of stalkers in one out of every five cases, with former girlfriends and, in some cases, obsessive strangers preying on them.

The findings, to be revealed following extensive research by the University of Leicester, show that the use of modern technology such as the internet, email and mobile phones have all contributed to a rise in the phenomenon.

Dr Lorraine Sheridan, a senior lecturer in forensic psychology who has been researching the subject of stalking for the past seven years, said that women were still the main target of these incidents, which include nuisance phone calls and even physical assault, but that the impact on male victims was equally devastating.

"People are still surprised that men can be victims as well as women and that they feel the same sort of fear and suffer just as much," Dr Sheridan said. "The majority of these cases involve women stalking men, but some are men targeting other men."

At least half of stalking incidents are carried out by former lovers .

In January this year, a woman who stalked her former doctor was jailed for three months. Jane Welsh, a married mother-of-two from Scotland, repeatedly drove past the surgery of Dr Stephen Wedderburn, made telephone calls to his house and followed him.

Stalking is still associated with the rich and famous, most notably Hollywood actresses. Jodie Foster was stalked by John Hinkley Jr, who claimed that his attempt to assassinate Ronald Regan was intended to impress her.

In fact it affects all levels of society. More than 600 people have been jailed in Britain since the Government passed anti-stalking laws in 1997. The Protection from Harassment Act was introduced partly in response to a series of high-profile cases, including that of Anthony Burstow.

For years, he pursued his victim, Tracey Morgan, who runs the Network for Surviving Stalking. He broke into her house and sent her used sanitary towels in the post.

Ms Morgan successfully prosecuted Burstow for causing grievous bodily harm, though there was no physical assault. Changing his name to Anthony Hurdle, he was jailed for life in 2001 for cutting the wrist of a former girlfriend.

A new trend is of stalkers stealing identities of victim's relatives and obtaining information about their victims.

Hamish Brown, a former detective inspector with the Metropolitan police who wrote a guide on dealing with stalkers, said people need to be careful about giving personal details.

"One danger of starting a website, for example, is that you could become a target if you reveal too much about yourself," he said.

'It took me a long time to get over the hurt she caused'

Peter Tower, 38, a gym instructor from Sevenoaks, Kent, was stalked by a former girlfriend for 18 months. He had been in the relationship for two years.

"A week after we split up, the trouble started. She used to turn up at my door night and day, which meant I couldn't sleep.

"At first I tried to reason with her: I tried every approach. Eventually I gave up and she would just bang on the door.

"I received 70 letters in the first three months. She would record an hour-and-a-half of her ramblings on audio tapes which she posted through the door. She would start by telling me how much she loved me and how she was going to destroy my life. It usually ended with her threatening to kill me and my current partner, then herself.

"She would spend a fortune on bunches of flowers and then dump them on my doorstep. I couldn't even use my mobile phone because she called all the time. I needed the phone for my job so it was disastrous.

"I was angry, I was frightened and I didn't know what to do. I felt sorry for her so I didn't call the authorities. It took me a long time to get over the hurt she caused."